The dynamics in the car showroom have changed beyond all recognition in recent years and despite the likes of Which? and the Daily Mail still believing and reporting that the car trade is full of spivs and ankle tappers (still baffles me that one) trust me it is not like that anymore.
Of course there are still sales techniques and closing tactics that are used and why shouldn’t there be? We are talking big ticket items with emotion attached but more importantly today’s buyer has more choice than ever before and can play dealers off against one another to get the best deal.
The profile of a sales executive in the world of car retailing today is as different as chalk and cheese compared to their predecessors and it is great to see more and more women forging good careers in the trade and therefore breaking down barriers which may have precluded them before.
Most sales managers today will tell you that it is vital to have a blend of talents, genders and ethnic backgrounds to represent the multicultural world we live in, and therefore expect to see some very keen Polish salespeople selling cars in certain areas very soon as the trade reacts to the changing demographics of its potential customers.
With car manufacturers increasing influence in the entire sales process means their fanaticism about ensuring that buyers receive the best service on offer knows no bounds and the subsequent penalising of dealers who do not conform or who fall behind the high standards of service expected of them can be extremely harsh.
It is for this reason that the modern sales executive has to be different; there is no longer room for ‘cherry picking’ or deciding that someone is a timewaster because he or she won’t buy inside the first 10 minutes. The modern way is to ensure that, before even talking about deals and finance, it is ascertained that the customer is actually buying the right car. It is during the detailed qualification period that this can be established and then and only then can prices be discussed.
The world of car retailing is in transition. We are moving from a time when the sales process started when the potential car buyer walked over the threshold of the showroom to now where car “salespeople” are becoming nothing more than facilitators. The sales process began a long while back, when the customer was sat at their computer.
There are many in the trade who still long for the good old days that the Which? Report appears to hark back to, where it was all seemingly nice and simple and the cards were stacked in favour of the car dealer. Although many tricks and hard closing tactics are long gone, if we are honest, selling the car and making a decent commission, even at the expense of whether it was morally the right thing to do, was always neatly glossed over.
I am honest enough to admit that I have been as guilty as anyone. I have turned a blind eye and stood by as people were sold cars I know they couldn’t afford, had the borrowing rate hiked up to 30% APR. I did nothing as people bought cars I knew to be nails and have been part of an environment where it was OK to not be scrupulously honest about the provenance of vehicles but I have learned that, in the long term, it can never be the future of a successful business.
Although the lessons may have been hard learned and many in the trade feel the power has shifted way too far it can only be right that at the end of it we are more transparent and more customer centric because the cost of cars can be a life changing amount and getting it right is vital for customers.
Getting it wrong can be catastrophic for everyone.